“Say your weak things in a strong voice.” ~Carrie Fisher
Confession session: I have a fear of public speaking. Yes, I’m a storyteller, host, and writer. I do a lot of interviews on both sides of the table. And yes, I get stage fright every single time. I’ve been known to get hives, get sick to my stomach, and not eat for a day before I have a speaking engagement.
I’m scared and doing it anyway. It’s the only way we get better.
Why would I ever admit that? Because I think it’s important to help each other along. I think it’s important to help each other do difficult things. And that begins with honesty.
What fear do you continually face down?
“You have gorgeous skin.”
That’s what a woman at a networking event said to me last night. I would have dismissed the comment except for the fact that she followed up that statement with her business card. She’s the Secretary General for the International Federation of Societies of Cosmetic Chemists. She knows skin.
I’ve always been very self-conscious about my skin. When I was in my early 20s, I developed horrible acne due to extreme chronic stress and it left some scarring on one side of my face. I still think of myself that way even though that time is nearly 20 years in my review mirror. I am constantly examining my face for flaws out of habit.
This woman’s comment reminded me that we often tell ourselves outdated narratives about who we are based upon our past experiences and circumstances that no longer apply. I carry around a number of these stigmas, none of which are true anymore but they’ve created such a deep groove in my brain that it’s hard to let go of them. Like a car that’s stuck in the mud, I keep spinning those same wheels to no avail when what I really to do is get out of the damn car and leave the mud behind once and for all.
Recently, I’ve been telling myself new narratives about strength, resilience, and courage to replace the ones about weakness, inadequacy, and fear. It’s going to take some time to erase the old patterns but with a little TLC and a hefty dose of patience I think I can turn it around. If you’re battling these same types of demons now, let’s build each other up. Face it—this world needs all of us at our best and the only way we’re going to get there is by raising up one another. With me?
Moving brings up all kinds of fears and concerns. I’ve been facing a few this week: comparing quotes from movers, worrying about the actual packing, saying “see you soon” to friends I’ve gotten used to seeing all the time, and renting a car and packing it up to make the trek back to New York. Every time I would cross something off my list, I’d find that there were two more to-do items to replace it. I started to get nervous that I wouldn’t get everything done in time, that something would make my move impossible. It was keeping me awake and making my mind fuzzy.
I got home last night and took a deep breath. I’ve been here before, many times and not that long ago. If there’s one thing I know how to do, it’s move and begin again. And if something does come up, some wrinkle in my plan, I’ll invoke my favorite mantra: “I’ve got this and I’ll handle it.” The only way out is through.
It was 8:30pm last night and all of a sudden I was in my living room crying. I’ve been pouring myself in my book this week and I have a cold, but that’s not it. As I close this current chapter of my life and begin a new one, there’s a certain level of fear mixed in with my excitement. For a moment, that fear got the upper hand.
I’ve been through loads of changes like this before. I’m moved to new cities, left jobs, left relationships, started companies, closed companies, dealt with the loss of loved ones, and had great fluctuations in my income over the years. And let’s not forget my apartment building fire, the bullet through my lobby a few months ago, and that small matter of my airplane being hit by lightning in mid-flight causing an emergency landing just before the wing fell off on the tarmac. Life’s a real kick in the pants sometimes.
The difference for me right now is that I’m so unwilling to compromise when it comes to how I spend my time. The only thing I seem to have any appetite for now is building a better world. We are facing so many challenges that I want to be a part of solving, and there are brief moments when that becomes overwhelming. Last night was one of those times.
And then J.K. Rowling flew into my inbox, like fairy godmothers often do. Her advice? “Stopping worry about paying the rent. Concentrate on your public speaking phobia.” Doing heartfelt work often requires us to take our fear and put it over there so that we can get back to what we need to do. Cry it out. Dance it out. Yell it out. Write it out. Hell, eat a donut if need be. Do whatever you have to do to exercise the fear. Then, get on with it. The world needs you.
Friends, I have had a rough week. One of the roughest I’ve ever had. Truly. I have been struggling mightily on so many fronts that at one point, I could feel the walls closing in on me. There were a lot of triggering events and I felt like I was descending back down into the scary tunnel of my PTSD from many years ago. I couldn’t sleep or eat for almost 3 days. Eventually, somewhere deep down in the depths of my soul, something began to rise through all the sadness and fear and noise. It was my power. It was my voice.
Your power and your voice are always there. Always. I know it can be difficult to hear them. I know that pain stands up and demands to be recognized. And I know that healing takes time. But you will heal. Be kind to yourself. Be on your own side. Be your own best advocate. Be fierce. Know your truth, and don’t let anyone else tell you who you are. You know you. You be you. Because you are so much more than enough. It takes time to know that, too. Take the time. It’s worth it.
“All great ideas are dangerous.” ~Oscar Wilde
I love this quote my Oscar Wilde. If you are making big plans now, or thinking about making big plans, chances are you’re coming up against some scary realities or risky choices. It’s easy to shy away from dangerous circumstances. What if you fail? What if it doesn’t go as well as you hope it will go? What will other people think? I’m thinking about all of these things to. Despite the fear, I say we move forward anyway. Let’s do what scares us. Let’s stand in our light, speak our truths, and embrace the messiness of all our new ventures.
Don’t you hate it when you’re having a tough time and someone’s first reaction is, “oh you’ll be fine.” My first thought is always “how the hell do you know that?” And then my second thought is, “they’re right. I am going to be fine. I’ve gotten this far, haven’t I?”
In the midst of any kind of stress, it’s easy to feel down-trodden, to feel like it’s never going to get better. But bit by bit, step by step, day by day, we can and do make things better. I know it’s not easy. I know that it sometimes feels like we’re going backward or in the completely opposite direction of where we think we want to go. And maybe you are. When that happens to me, in time I realize that’s the way I had to go—completely out of the way!—to find something or someone I needed to move forward.
Goodness knows there is plenty to be disappointed about in the world today. Flip on the news in any channel of your choice, and it’s there front and center – violence, heartbreak, and a massive amount of fear. It makes you want to tear your hair out, right? I certainly feel that way at some point every day. And then I have to remind myself that yes, I am just one person and yes, I can have an impact. I can at least shape my very tiny corner of the world through my time, energy, attention, and funds. Once I remember that, I find myself replacing those feelings of helplessness with pure hopefulness. And I’ve found that hope is where all great change begins.
A big step in life, even if it’s a welcome and wonderful thing, still carries some fear with it. That happened to me yesterday. It looks like I’ll be making a big change ahead of schedule. I was planning to make this change in about a year but for reasons I never saw coming, I need to make it sooner rather than later. Off and on all day, my heart would race, my breath would get shallow, and my mind wandered. I needed some grounding so I sat down, closed my eyes, put my hands on my heart, and just focused on my breath.
What I realized is that it’s the anticipation of taking the big step that is scarier than actually taking it, whether that step is a new job, a new home, a move, or a drastic change in routine. Once we know we need to adapt to a new reality, we just do. Then we go on and do the best we can. And so, I did. Thanks to the many friends who helped me to see that this is the right way forward.
Yesterday I started a scary process: writing query letters to agents. My fingers hovered over my keyboard, shaking. What was so hard about presenting my work and asking someone to consider representing me? Good old-fashioned rejection.
And then I reminded myself that every letter, every book, every play that’s ever been written is done in the exact same way – one word at a time. So that’s what I committed to write. One word followed by another followed by another. Letter by letter, I got there and wrote my first one. And so it begins…a little scary, a little trying, and ultimately, hopefully, worthwhile. Emerson deserves to have someone fight for her story.
I’m working on a piece of writing for my dear friend, Amanda. She’s the best editor I’ve ever worked with, bar none. Whenever she asks me to write something for her, I jump at the chance every time. This particular assignment involved traveling back in time to the dark days of September 2008 when the world, my career, and my life was turned upside down by a frightening, unprecedented economic recession. I was working for a financial institution, an industry I swore I’d never join, and I was, in a word, terrified.
Rather than cower and hide, I rose up. To this day, I’m not sure where I found the strength. I guess the fear of losing my job and my livelihood was adrenalin for me. I took that energy that gets wasted by fear and used it to drive me forward, headfirst, right into the abyss of the unknown. I still shiver thinking about it. And then I smile. Time travel is a wild ride. We are so much stronger than we think we are.